If you asked me right here, right now, to name the Eurovision nation I support unconditionally…I’d say Sweden, duh. That has nothing to do with the subject of today’s post, of course – I was just hoping to throw you off track (and remind you that Sweden is the one, they’re my number one, the only treasure I’ll-STOP IT, JAZ!).
The UK, on the other hand, isn’t a participant I always wave a flag for, but they have had more than their fair share of successes in contests past. Every year for the first twenty years of their participation, they finished in the top 10, with eighteen of those finishes in the top five. Clearly, they knew what they were doing back in the day, and the people – be they people on juries or, later on in the 1990s, people at home on the couch – responded accordingly.
As I’m people too (believe it or not) I’m going to take this chance to vote for my faves from Royaume-Uni, if only in retrospect and with make-believe points. I’ve been on a trip through the ESC archives, and here are the ten songs from the land of Cliff Richard that I had to bring back with me as souvenirs.
1 point goes to Are You Sure? by The Allisons (1961)
I find voices that are in perfect harmony hugely satisfying. Are You Sure? plays up to that satisfaction by neatly weaving together the vocals of Allison 1 and Allison 2 (I am currently too lazy to Google-remind myself of their names) into a very cute little ditty about some she-devil who’s callously walking out on one (or possibly both) of these guys. It’s an entry that might prove too saccharine for some, but I find it refreshing to listen to in this day and age, when the pinnacle of pop music is Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. Okay, so that statement’s clearly untrue, but humour my desire to be dramatic, won’t you?
2 points go to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit by Gina G (1996)
I think we can all agree – I think – that in spite of that cringeworthy ‘Hey girls!’, Gina G was robbed of a top 5 finish in Oslo. Getting through three minutes in that dress without something falling out was a prize-winning achievement in itself, but COME ON! This song is boss. It’s got an irresistible thumping beat, a disco/Eurodance flavour that Alcazar could only dream of recreating, and, when competing in the contest, managed to be both oh-so-90s and ahead of its time. I guess my fellow Aussie Gina found solace in the fact that Ooh Aah became an international hit, whilst Ireland’s winning song The Voice…well, didn’t. I guess that’s proof that the real Eurovision winner isn’t always the one on top of the scoreboard.
3 points go to Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)
This has got to be one of the happiest songs of all time. It’s definitely the happiest song to incorporate skirt-ripping (and to be proudly sponsored by Velcro). It hasn’t dated particularly well, but stick this on at a Eurovision party, or a party being attended by anyone who was a sentient being in England in the 1980s, and the dance floor will be packed faster than you can say ‘don’t let your indecision take you from behind’ (tee hee!). Sometimes I feel like MYMU is one big, long chorus, with the levels of catchy so consistent throughout, and listening to it in 2015, it has a cheesiness that’s charming rather than revolting. At least as far as I’m concerned.
4 points go to Save All Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)
So it turns out the UK were big advocates of adorability back in the day, as their third winning entry is as cute as The Allisons’. Save Your Kisses For Me isn’t just SO PRECIOUS IT HURTS, however. It also has a very M. Night Shyamalan plot twist in which we discover that the aforementioned kisses that must be saved are not from an adult spouse, but rather *gasp* a three-year-old child (presumably one of their children…). But mainly, it’s just precious. Tip of the day: make this your first pick next karaoke night, and throw in some of the original choreography just because. If your friends laugh at you, make it known you won’t be saving any smooches for them anytime soon.
5 points go to Come Back by Jessica Garlick (2002)
Who doesn’t love a good ballad? Well, probably lots of people. But I’m not one of them, and if you’re not interested in hearing my opinion, I have no idea why you’re reading my personal blog. As a connoisseur of fine ballads, I can say with authority that Jessica Garlick’s is up there with the second-best of them (or should I say the third-best?). There have been plenty of better ballads in the ESC, before and after she took to the stage in her Pocahontas costume (#WANT) but I still really enjoy Come Back. It’s a simple, well-sung entry that builds nicely before calming the eff down and then soaring again on that final money note. No stripteases or glitter-blowing required.
6 points go to Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (1993)
The UK went retro with Sonia, and her amazing purple catsuit. It didn’t totally work for them (if looks could kill, Sonia’s laser-beam death stare would have incinerated Niamh Kavanagh on the spot) but it was a top-notch effort nonetheless. Sonia’s one of those artists who almost sounds better live than in studio, and she sang and generally performed le crap out of Better The Devil You Know, which more than made up for the weaknesses in the lyrics. As a standalone song, the main drawcard here is how instant and infectious it is, and though I think Ireland’s winner was a very good one, I think I would’ve been happy if the UK had added another trophy to their collection at this point.
7 points go to Say It Again by Precious (1999)
Hi, my name is Jaz, I’m twenty-three, and I’m still the same girl-band and boy-band freak I was fifteen years ago. I was raised on the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, so any act that vaguely resembles either of them AND entered Eurovision – i.e. Eden, Prime Minister or XXL – is bound to rate highly with me. Precious = a British girl band including a woman who’d go on to join Atomic Kitten = musical royalty in my eyes. In terms of my ears, Say It Again is always well received. R & B doesn’t usually go down well in the contest, and this was no exception by UK standards – at the time, 12th was one of their worst-ever results – but I’m a fan, and that fact that this song finished lower than the likes of Love City Groove is inexplicable to me.
8 points go to Where Are You? by Imaani (1998)
There’s not a whole lot you can say about this entry, though I could go on for hours about the painful yet wonderful 90s-ness of Imaani’s hair and outfit. My short and sweet description of the song would go something like this: three minutes of simple but very effective pop. There was a lot of that in the field in Birmingham, with the majority of it scoring well. I wouldn’t dare complain about the UK coming second to Israel, partly because it would be a cardinal Eurofan sin to diss Dana International, and partly because Dana did have a little extra something (and no, I don’t mean…THAT) which helped her forge ahead. But give me the option to listen to either Diva or Where Are You?…and I’ll be all like, ‘Who do you think you are? Don’t tell me what to do! Back off!’. Then I’d probably pick the latter.
10 points go to I Can by Blue (2011)
As if you didn’t know this was coming, especially after my earlier boy band/girl band speech. I still believe this song had ‘WINNER!’ written all over it, and if it wasn’t for a performance that wasn’t so much a complete disaster as it was just wrong all over (Lee Ryan’s vocal fail not included as that was definitely a disaster) it might’ve at least had ‘respectable top five finish’ written all over it. After the Josh Dubovie Incident of the previous year, and the many fails the UK had experienced leading up to the Düsseldorf show, the anthemic I Can gave us a glimmer of hope that Jade Ewen’s success hadn’t been a fluke. And I suppose Blue’s almost-top-10 result – an excellent one in comparison to the likes of 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010 – proved that it wasn’t. Kind of.
Douze points go to Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (1989)
Oh, but you don’t, Live Report. You actually got it super right on this occasion, apart from the whole ‘losing to a song that most of us think is one of the weakest winners, like, EVER’ thing. Now, to clarify, I actually like Rock Me as a song. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and lead singer Emilija had one of the best quiffs in Eurovision history until Jedward came along. But as a winner, it does suffer from a bit of Running Scared syndrome, otherwise known as ‘how the hell did that happen?’. So as much as I don’t like to say that certain songs ‘should’ have won, I’m going to imply it here. Why Do I Always Get It Wrong is the height of UK Eurovision excellence for me because I love 80s music, and I love ballads, and the combination of those two loves here does things to me. Report’s front man Ray helps that along with his effortless vocals in and out of the recording studio. Fashion aside, there’s nothing about this entry that doesn’t work for me.
EBJ extras: Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw (1967); Let Me Be The One by The Shadows (1975); Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977); Love Shine A Light by Katrina & the Waves (1997); Even If by Andy Abraham (2008).
Aaaaaaand cue the complaints! JK. I meant cue the commenting of your personal favourites from the United Kingdom over the last fifty-nine years, interwoven with gushing praise on how amazing you think I am. That’s not asking too much, is it?
Fine then! That’s all for today, but stay tuned to EBJ this week for some Georgia talk. Plus, sticking with the UK and continuing my ‘Vienna Wishlist’ series, I’ll be revealing who I’d draft in to represent them in 2015 if I had the power. To anyone at the BBC reading this: I really, really, really would like that power. In the immortal words of Cyprus 2002, GIMME.
The Best Night Ever: Meeting the world’s biggest boy band (and telepathically attempting to get them to Eurovision)
(This post was supposed to go out a fortnight ago, so please keep that in mind if/when you are reading it. It was totally hot off the press at that time…)
A few weeks back I mentioned that something kind of amazing was about to happen to me, and that I’d show and tell once it had. Well, last Saturday was the day. If the mere mention of the words ‘boy band’ make you physically ill, and you’re not in the mood for trashing my taste in music, you won’t like this next sentence: last Saturday was the day I got to meet a group of guys who look a little bit like this:
By ‘a little bit’, I mean ‘totally’. Yes, that’s right…I got to meet ONE DIRECTION!!!
In case that outburst didn’t give it away, I should tell you that I am a major boy band freak. Said freakiness goes way back – I grew up in the 90s listening exclusively to the Spice Girls, and every single boy band in existence (the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, *NSYNC, Westlife, Boyzone, NKOTB, Boyz II Men, Five, Human Nature…you get the idea). Sadly, I have the same taste in music today, with the addition of mass Eurovision/national final/Asian pop. So a few months ago, when I found out I’d won tickets to go and see THE boy band of the moment (which I never could have bought myself because you practically have to sell a kidney on the black market to afford one) I was just a teensy bit happy about it.
Once I’d finished being a teensy bit happy, disbelief set in, because I never win anything that depends on a random draw. But that quickly gave way to “Screw that. Hashtag winning!”. I then broke the news to my mother, who said she’d be my plus one if none of my friends were interested. It turns out they weren’t, but only because none of them would admit to wanting to go. They are sorry now, believe me.
And so it was that a 22-year-old with a bachelor degree under her belt prepared to attend a concert geared towards teenagers with her mother (talk about YOLO). But wait – there’s more! A week or so before the show, I woke up to a phone call from the competition peeps casually letting me know that, not only would my mother and I be dancing all night to the best song ever, but we would also get to meet and greet the band before they took to the stage.
You will may laugh, but I don’t think I’d ever screamed out loud in my life before that happened. More with shock than anything else, since stuff like this does NOT happen to me. I’d never encountered anyone even remotely famous, besides that time I saw a local newsreader in the supermarket and stalked him through the freezer section for half an hour. I’d seen famous people from a distance, but I’d never actually gotten to “accidentally” brush up against one. So the prospect of doing that to not one, but five of the most famous man-children on the planet was thrilling…and terrifying. But was I going to chicken out, or give the opportunity to one of those tween girls who owns all the 1D albums and merchandise and bursts into hysterical tears whenever the names Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall or Zayn are mentioned? No. No I was not.
So a week later, I was having a panic attack as le mother and I headed down to the shiny new Perth Arena (which would make an excellent Eurovision venue should the EBU ever decide that Australia deserves a shot at hosting). All we knew was that we were meeting someone outside the box office who would march us and a small group of others into the depths of backstage to briefly fraternize with the guys before the concert started. When we arrived to do just that, we found approximately 10 million girls lined up outside.
I figured they were that breed of super-fan that does the hysterical crying, since this was 4.30pm and the concert didn’t start until after 7. It turned out they were lining up to attend the pre-show sound check, and after a while, we got the nod and the lanyards to join the same queue.
What felt like a year later, after a bag search and water bottle confiscation, we ended up in the arena foyer with the masses. They were filing into the arena itself, but our little group (consisting purely of hyperventilating, sweating people of various ages) was whisked away through a lot of swingy doors and into a massive room with a bar and very spongy carpet. There, we waited for what felt like another full year, having mini heart attacks whenever someone walked past the open door. I internally debated whether or not to grab a breath mint from my handbag (who knew how close we’d be getting?) and just as I did, through the door walked the actual, living, breathing One Direction. Naturally, I nearly choked on the mint.
I don’t know if this has happened to you if you’ve met someone famous, but as soon as they came in I went into this weird dreamland where nothing felt real. In a way, I think that saved me from having a breakdown in the presence of the band (on the outside, anyway). The meet-and-greet began, and it turned out to be more of a ‘Hello!’, photo, photo, photo, ‘Thanks, bye!’ situation. These boys are busy. My mother and I stepped up, said a star-struck bonjour and had a few photos taken – me on the end and her for some reason in prime position in the middle (it’s a sad situation when your parents get more action than you do) and with that, it was time to make room for the next in line. It was all over super quick, but we did get to exchange a few words with and manhandle some serious celebrities, which was epic enough to be THE most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.
For the record:
– They smelled really good (a creepy but true observation).
– They were taller than we’d imagined. You always hear people saying how “small” famous people are in reality, so this was a surprise.
– As you can see, they are super tan, and my mother and I are just kind of…red. News flash: Australia is not full of bronzed beach gods and goddesses who walk around in bathers to show off their bronzeness. And it really shows when we stand next to people from anywhere else.
– They were genuinely friendly and played up for the cameras, despite the fact that there is rarely a time when they aren’t being photographed. Nobody would be able to help falling a little bit in love.
Alas, we and all of our newfound love had to leave the squishy-carpet room and head off to the sound check ourselves. We joined the millions of girls at the front of the stage (who seemed to pick up the scent of 1D on us and started giving us death stares) and soon the guys emerged from the squishy room to deafen us all with a few quick song run-throughs and answer some audience questions that involved the word ‘twerk’. The world we live in. In contrast to most of what had happened so far, the sound check was over in minutes, and we were all shepherded upstairs where there were canapés, non-alcoholic beverages, and shockingly, in a time when nothing comes without a price, free programmes. It all felt very classy, if you ignored all of the hotpants-clad teenagers sprawled all over the floor fighting with each other about which band member was their “husband”.
That was pretty much where the class/special treatment ended, but it was amazing while it lasted. I just wish I’d stuffed some tiny sandwiches into my handbag as a souvenir. But sandwich-less, I followed the masses into the arena again, and we found our seats, which thankfully weren’t right down on the floor but off to the side in a tiered section (I figured that meant that at my ripe old age, I wouldn’t be forced to stand up the entire night, but I was wrong). My sexy earplugs went in, because the screaming was getting louder as the stadium filled up – the show was sold out and the capacity of the place is 13 000, which equals an unsafe scream level – and then, the lights went out, and came up to reveal…the support act. Those guys were called Five Seconds of Summer, and are an Australian punk-rock band that I had heard of, but wasn’t really interested in hearing for 45 minutes when I could be being told what makes me beautiful. Having said that, they were pretty good, if you like that sort of thing.
ANYWAY, the time did arrive when 1D made their appearance, and I immediately thanked the god of earplugs that I had mine inserted (I could hear the music perfectly, but the screaming was down to a 9/10). Because this post has already gone on for way, way too long and even those of you who were interested at the start are dozing off, I won’t go through the entire set list (also because I don’t remember it). What I will say is that the whole thing was really, really good. They sang everything the Directioners could have asked for, and they sounded great – definitely more Klapa s Mora than Jemini. There were gigantic, Moscow 2009-esque (almost) video screens, lights, streamers and balloons in action, and at one point, the boys were transported across the arena via a floating platform and deposited on a mini-stage directly opposite where we were sitting, where they spent a while doing what they do best, answering more questions, and of course, accusing each other of farting.
Of course, that wasn’t the closest I had been to them that night (wink wink, etc) but it was still an awesome feature of the show, especially for someone whose previous concert experiences have seen the artist/s stick to the main stage. I have to admit, it made me feel like I was at Eurovision Training 101, with the vast amounts of people going crazy in a massive venue, lights and cameras, costume changes, and satellite stage. I now feel prepared to make the pilgrimage to *insert European city here* 2015, should my back account allow, so thank you, One Direction. Thank you very much.
Speaking of, they saved the best for their encore. Best Song Ever and What Makes You Beautiful were the last two songs performed, and I didn’t mind at all standing up for those (standing up for the rest and complaining about a sore back had me feeling like an old woman, but if you sat down you couldn’t see a thing). There was a euphoric (as Loreen would say) moment during these songs when I got all high on the excitement and decided that I needed to buy all existing 1D albums ASAP, and that it was shameful that I didn’t already have at least one in my collection. I will let you know at the end whether I did such a fangirlish thing or not.
After basking in the noise, the boys disappeared backstage, never to return (until the next night, that is) and with aching joints, a bit of a headache and a jacket that I may never wash again, mamma and I disappeared off home. And that, believe it or not, was that. It honestly was one of the best nights of my life – totally worth all the money I would have payed for it if I hadn’t gotten lucky. You may laugh at that comment, but it isn’t every concert you go to that you get to meet a.k.a. touch and pose with the artists, attend their sound check AND get free sandwiches (the sandwiches clearly being the highlight); nor is it every concert you go to that ends up being so entertaining and lacking in bum notes. As much as it prepared me for the ESC more than any other I’d been to before, it also set a high standard for my beloved contest to meet. Don’t send me death threats, because I still love Eurovision more than any boy band, and I fully expect it to be amazing when I do get there. It’s just that, after last weekend, I can’t help being a little bit of a Directioner myself. Albeit a geriatric one.
One final word to make the title of this post make sense: there are a lot of artists (and not those brought back from the dead) who would do a great job at the ESC for the UK, and after seeing them live, I think 1D would be one of them. I did spend the evening imagining what it would be like if they did it, and then used all of my brainpower to put the idea into their heads, so we may get the announcement any day now.
Ha ha. I know it would never happen! Well, maybe in 15 years when their hairlines are starting to recede and they’ve broken up and reunited three times and they try to use it as an avenue for a comeback. Until then, this girl will have to dream.
But the guys should keep this in mind: boy bands have been pretty successful at Eurovision in recent history. Here’s proof.
Eden – 5th in 1999 for Israel
One – 6th in 2002 for Cyprus
Prime Minister – 10th in 2002 for Russia
No Name – 6th in 2005 for Serbia and Montenegro
Blue – 11th in 2011 for the UK
Yes, there have been exceptions, but more often than not the outcome of sending a European version of *NSYNC has been positive. So maybe the BBC should source a hypnotist who can convince One Direction to step up in Copenhagen. Either that, or they can wait a decade or so and let the band come knocking. It’ll happen, you’ll see. We’ll all be dancing to the second-best song ever.
So that is the end of this particular ramble. I apologise for the length and any brain cells you may have lost trying to get through it. Rest assured that normal transmission will resume in a few days. I have some (hopefully) exciting stuff planned for the rest of the year, including a countdown of my top 50 Junior Eurovision entries of all time, so have your judgment hats at the ready, folks!
But for now, answer me this:
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
PS – I did go and buy all existing One Direction albums, but managed to stop myself from pre-ordering the third one (I still consider myself relatively sane.)
PPS – Here are a few more photos taken by moi on the night, for anyone interested.
This really is the end.
Is anybody else completely shocked that Eurovision 2012 is almost upon us? I literally feel like Düsseldorf was a few months ago, when it fact it has been just about a whole year (which is good and scary…Hooray, it’s ESC o’ clock! But where the heck have the last twelve months gone?). In fact, its been an almost-whole year in which I still haven’t come to terms with, not so much Azerbaijan, but Running Scared itself, winning the contest. This year the field has proven just as strong as that of 2011, with any number of countries having the potential to succeed Ell & Nikki on their turf. That means it could be another edition where an under-the-radar entry gets lots of 7s and 8s and 10s and ends up on top, which could be a cause of celebration (if it’s, say, Estonia) or another shocker (if it’s, say, Belgium. HA. HA.).
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that years go fast, Eurovision can be surprising, and blah blah blah.
A lot can change in a year, too. For those of us who keep listening to the songs after the contest (if you don’t, you know, that’s fine. SHAME ON YOU! Totally fine) that includes our opinions of them, and that’s what this final DIR post aims to prove. The difference between 2 or 3 listens of a song, and 20 or 30, is huge. There are some songs that begin to drive you crazy even though you liked them in the beginning, and others that you really get into after the event.
This is what my top 10, I’m-waving-a-flag-for-you song list looked like just before the contest last year:
- United Kingdom I Can
- Bosnia & Herzegovina Love in Rewind
- Sweden Popular
- Iceland Coming Home
- Cyprus San Angelos S’agapisa
- Ukraine Angel
- Latvia Angel in Disguise
- Italy Madness of Love
- Norway Haba Haba
- Slovakia I’m Still Alive
One year on, these are my 2011 favourites:
- Sweden Popular
- Bosnia & Herzegovina Love in Rewind
- Cyprus San Angelos S’agapisa
- United Kingdom I Can
- Ukraine Angel
- Hungary What About My Dreams?
- Slovenia No One
- Italy Madness of Love
- Norway Haba Haba
- Iceland Coming Home
Okay, so 8/10 countries are the same, and 3/10 have stayed exactly were they were – but you can’t say I haven’t changed my mind at all. Now is the time for you to chip in with your two cents. How have your opinions of the 2011 entries changed over the last year? Which songs that you formerly disliked are you now into, and vice versa? Is your favourite of the 43 still the same? I’d love to hear your answers to these questions!
For the record, I’m backing Spain, Norway and Estonia in 2012. Remind me to check back on this in April 2013 by which time I’ll be obsessed with San Marino, Georgia and Montenegro.*
* That is, if Hell has frozen over and pigs have learnt to fly by then.
NEXT TIME: Get ready to argue with me to the death, because it’s time for my 2012 reviews! First on the alphabetical-except-for-the-Big-6 list? Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Bulgaria.
gimmick /ˈgɪmɪk / noun. A trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade (The Oxford Dictionary)
This list features gimmicks of the prop and people variety (and no more pompous definitions, I promise). There actually weren’t that many to make a list of in Düsseldorf, but for you, I have managed to locate ten.
Which one was your favourite?
#1 Ukraine’s sand art
Tried and tested by: nobody
I love it because: I loved everything about the Ukrainian entry last year. But I also love how original it was. Many, many gimmicks have graced the Eurovision stage, but 2011 was the first time a woman dressed like Dracula’s missus got up there and proved that playing with sand can be impressive, if you do it the right way. I don’t think Ukraine would have managed 4th place without Kseniya Simonova, sand artist extraordinaire.
#2 The UK’s reformed boy band
Tried and tested by: technically, nobody
I love it because: boy bands like Blue defined the music of my girlhood, alongside Westlife, Five, the Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, and any other band from the 90s or early 00s that featured a bunch of relatively good-looking guys, including one who got really famous and one whose name nobody remembers. The news of Blue’s reformation for Eurovision turned my then nineteen-year-old self into a hysterical, screeching fangirl (something that will only happen again if One Direction represent the UK in a future contest…a.k.a. never).
#3 Belgium’s a cappella performance
Tried and tested by: Cosmos (Latvia 2006)
I love it because: it’s an amazing talent, and it takes guts to stand on a teensy stage in front of thousands with millions watching on TV, and provide not only the vocals, but the music for your song too, using only your mouth. Witloof Bay’s live performance was studio perfect, and even though I’m not a huge lover of their entry, I’ve watched it back more than a few times over the past year.
#4 Sweden’s smashing glass
Tried and tested by: nobody, unless you count Søren Pilmark’s “Whoops, I dropped the trophy!” gag during his co-hosting gig of Eurovision 2001.
I love it because: Eric Saade looks terrified when he goes in for the smash, and I find that very funny. It’s unknown whether he was afraid that a) he might end up with a shard of glass permanently wedged in his person or b) the glass-smashing detonator would fail to work and Sweden would be responsible for a big boo-boo on live TV, but either way I get enjoyment out of the barely disguised ‘HELP ME!’ expression on his face.
#5 Croatia’s costume revelations
(This image refused to upload. Apparently my computer refuses to cooperate with images depicting such hideous clothing…)
Tried and tested by: How much time do you have? There is two words for the quintessential costume reveal, however, and they are Bucks, and Fizz.
I love it because: it never gets old. Despite the fact that each and every one of Daria’s revealed outfits was appalling (and that the magician guy was always loitering creepily in the background) the quick changes were well executed and timed.
#6 Germany’s returning winner
Tried and tested by: several, including Carola, Dana International and Charlotte Perrelli – but the last winner to defend their title directly after winning was Corry Brokken in 1958.
I love it because: it showed how proud the Germans were of Lena and their victory, figuring she would do well again. I am still bitter that, in making the top 10, she did leapfrog Blue, but ultimately I have to be pleased about Germany’s turnaround in luck, which will hopefully continue in Baku.
#7 Cyprus’ bendy choreography
Tried and tested by: Sakis Rouvas (Greece 2009)
I love it because: it’s amazing! HOW do they do that? If you know the secret, I’m begging you, tell me. It’d be a great party trick to have up my sleeve (or possibly the leg of my pants).
#8 Slovakia and Ireland’s double acts
Tried and tested by: someone, I’m sure. Or should that be ‘someones’?
I love it because: one set of twins would’ve been great enough, but two sets? Well, that opened up the opportunity for some hilarious and “spontaneous” photographs, one of which I’ve stuck here for your enjoyment.
#9 Russia’s light-up leathers
Tried and tested by: Safura (Azerbaijan 2010). Sort of.
I love it because: who wouldn’t? Russia found an inventive way of getting Alex’s name up in lights, and for that I congratulate them.
#10 Lithuania’s lyrical sign language
Tried and tested by: Walters & Kazha (Latvia 2005)
I love it because: well, it’s the only notable gimmick left that isn’t Armenia’s giant boxing glove. I’m sure there’s people out there who would appreciate the gesture, although any hearing-impaired viewers would surely have lip-read the lyrics as Evelina sang them. Kudos to her anyway for multitasking.
NEXT TIME: In my last DIR post, I’ll be comparing my top 10 from this time last year with my current top 10. Have things changed? Time will tell…
These days, it’s countries like Greece who always find themselves in the top ten (how terrible for them). But once upon a time – or to be more specific, the period between 1987 and 1999 – it was the UK constantly nabbing one of those coveted positions, believe it or not (with their recent “luck”, it would be easier not to).
If you can think back that far in time, here’s a little trivia question for you. In 1995, Royaume Uni still managed to squeeze into the top ten with an entry that would be doomed in today’s contest. Did this particular entry:
a) Have the same name as the group performing it, which is never a promising sign?
b) Feature such deep, meaningful and poetic lyrics as ‘I know we’re really makin’ love now’ and ‘I saw you had flavour and I wanted a taste of this sweet thing’? (How romantic).
c) See the artists take to the stage wearing more tartan than you’d find at a kilt festival, and not in an acceptable, kilt kind of way?
d) Make Eurovision ghetto by being 95% crap? (I mean rap, obviously. There’s only a one-letter difference. I was bound to make a typo).
e) Do all of the above…and so much more?
If you answered ‘e’, congratulations! And also, commiserations, because apparently you haven’t been lucky enough to banish the horror that was Love City Groove by, yes, Love City Groove, from your mind. It’s hard to digest the fact that seventy-six points were notched up by these guys, enough to get them to number ten (albeit alongside Malta), in a contest where today, not even The World’s Greatest Boy Band* can claw their way up that high, position-wise. Times sure have changed…
*Not an official accolade bestowed upon Blue, unbelievably.
‘Tis the season to be keeping up to date with every last Eurovision-related development! You may not think there’s much happening at the moment, but planning the ESC is pretty close to being a year-round job – and don’t forget the fact that we’re not too far away from December, when the 9th Junior Eurovision will take place in Armenia. As such, there IS facts and figures about both events piling up already. In case you’ve not had the time or you just want a second opinion, here’s my role call of what we can expect…so far!
– It’ll be a trek to win JESC this year, what with the logo and the slogan (“Reach for the top!”) having been selected, both of which are musically mountainous.
– The show will take place on December 3, at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex in Yerevan, Armenia. The venue can seat 8000 – 11 000 people, and has previously had the likes of Eurovision representatives André (2006) and Hayko (2007) as well as Deep Purple (if all you know about them is Smoke on the Water, you are not alone) pass through its doors.
– It looks like there’ll be 12 countries stepping on the stage, 2 down from last year. They are: Armenia (I should hope so!), Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and…San Marino! Italy might not be in it to win it (or lose it, since they really are not in it in any way) but us fans will get to hear Italian after all. Let’s cross our fingers that SM can rake in a few more points than they did in Belgrade and Düsseldorf. Do you remember Düsseldorf? It was such a long time ago now…
– Unfortunately, neither Latvia, Malta nor Serbia will be participating. The lack of Serbia makes my face a particularly sad one as they always have me picking up the phone to vote in Junior Eurovision. Of course, I immediately put it back down again since I’m in Australia and can’t vote…but the mere fact Serbia makes me forget that says a lot! Come back in 2012, all three of you!
– 2 very strong songs have been selected so far: Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta (which translates to Like Romeo and Juliet) by Katya Ryabova for Russia; and Candy Music (which, believe it or not, translates to Candy Music) by Candy for Georgia. Russia is my favourite so far, but it cannot be denied how up-to-the-mainstream-minute both of the entries are. It’ll be a fab show if these are any indication of the standard.
– The next entry we’ll hear belongs to the Ukraine, who select on July 31, followed (at this point) by the hosts and Lithuania in September and the Netherlands in October.
– May 22, 24 and 26 are the preliminary dates set for the Baku show, which means that the EBU is making us all pay for having to wait less than a year between the 2010 and 2011 contests. We’ve now got a fortnight extra to wait, but remember: it’s July, which means there’s less than 45 weeks to go (I think…I don’t often check things twice, unlike Santa Claus). That must be a scary thought for the Azerbaijani organizers, who did promise a show to rival Moscow!
– Debates continue over where the contest will be held, which is a fairly important detail to determine. Rather than “to be or not to be?” the question seems to be “to use a stadium we already have or to build a brand spanking new one?”. If a 20 000 seat venue doesn’t get built especially for Eurovision (oh to have such power!) then it looks like the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, which seats a mere 35 700 people, could be the one.
– After just 2 years, voting during the show had been abandoned in favour of the previous voting window system. And just when I was warming to the new one! It definitely made voting for songs rather than performances more likely. Oh well, I should know by now that one of the ESC’s favourite things is change – not the Hotel FM kind either.
– 17 countries have confirmed their 2012 participation so far, which means we’ll have at least one semi final! They are: Austria, Azerbaijan (again, I should hope they’d make an appearance at their own show!), Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. I’m hoping the UK confirms soon and isn’t thinking, ‘If Blue couldn’t do it, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber couldn’t do it, what’s the bleeding point?’. It’d be nice to have the Czech Republic, Andorra and Montenegro back as well.
– The participation of Israel and Portugal is in jeopardy, with the preliminary final date clashing with a Jewish holiday for the former, and some serious broadcaster issues for the latter. NOOOOOOOO!
– On a happier note, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden have all begun their selection processes – albeit tentatively. Sweden is calling out for Melodifestivalen entrants, with one small requirement: NONE of the songs can feature the word popular. I am, of course, joking. But really, I think we’ve had enough repetitions of that word to last us a hundred years. Perhaps then Eric Saade can make a triumphant return to the contest via live satellite feed from his nursing home singing (I Used To Be) Popular.
So cheer up, because it is certainly not all quiet on the ESC front! If you’re not a JESC fan then keep your eyes on Baku, and if you are, enjoy the upcoming selections and the fact that I like you way better than those people who aren’t JESC fans! Ha ha. Eurovision can last 365 days a year if you really want it to…
Or S to U, whatever takes your fancy!
Song: Stand By
Result: 16th in semi final
My favourite lyric: “Waves of eternity, waves of serenity”
The best bits: It was great to have Italy Junior (would a San Marinese person kill me for saying that?) back in the contest after two years away, and they at least managed to improve their record by a few points. Senit looked and sounded pretty spectacular on the night.
The other bits: In my opinion, this is San Marino’s worst entry EVER! That’s mainly due to my unconditional love for their only other one from back in 2008, Complice. Stand By is of an equally lazy tempo, but it’s just so much drearier, and there wasn’t a whole lot they could do on stage with it.
I give the song: 6
I give the vocals: 8
I give the performance: 7
Points for San Marino: 7
Gimmick: Welcome to the 60s
The best bits: Serbia can’t put a foot wrong in my eyes, always bringing something unique to the stage. This year, they had a theme and they stuck to it in costume, graphics, choreography and hairdos (apparently Nina’s normally a long-haired brunette). But why not go all out, when you can do it in a classy and entertaining way?
The other bits: Whilst I like that they made the decision to keep the song in Serbian, I reckon the English version – which was really well written – could have gotten them some more points and perhaps a position in the top 10. Also, I don’t think the people behind the performance took into consideration all the viewers who suffer from motion sickness.
I give the song: 8
I give the vocals: 10
I give the performance: 10
Points for Serbia: 10
Song: I’m Still Alive
Result: 13th in semi final
Gimmick: The Doubles, volume II
The best bits: Is this more American-sounding than the US national anthem? Perhaps, but so is Azerbaijan, and I like this a lot better! The twins (sorry, TWiiNS. That name = the worst part of the entry) pulled off quite a polished performance. I was expecting some awful vocals, Jedward-style, but was impressed, if not blown away, by those they gave. Both looked absolutely amazing – there’s definitely not a prettier twin with those two.
The other bits: I’m sure a lot of other people could, but I can’t really complain about anything here. Apart from the fact that their absolutely amazing-ness makes me feel about as attractive as Dustin the Turkey.
I give the song: 10
I give the vocals: 7
I give the performance: 8
Points for Slovakia: 8
Song: No One
Artist: Maja Keuc
Reminds me of: Fighter by Christina Aguilera
The best bits: Now here’s some mind-blowing vocals! I can’t sing Maja’s praises enough (although when I do I get told to shut up because I can’t sing an eighth as good as her). For a long time, in fact, right up until the Düsseldorf performance, I couldn’t see why people were bandying “Slovenia 2012!!!” around the place. But something happened on that stage, with the hand flourishing and body armor, akin to what happened with Ukraine in 2010 – an electrifying three minutes.
The other bits: I can’t believe security allowed those platform boots into the arena! Surely they qualify as a weapon?
I give the song: 9
I give the vocals: 10
I give the performance: 10
Points for Slovenia: 12
My favourite national finalist: Volver by Auryn
Song: Qui Me Quiten Lo Bailao
Artist: Lucía Perez
Reminds me of: Hey Soul Sister by Train
The best bits: This song is a little closer to the upbeat Spanish pop entries that I always get into – think Dime from 03, Para Llenarme De Ti from 04 and I Love You Mi Vida from 07 (e-eh-oh!). It’s cheesy, but sunny, and no matter what Lucia really thought of it – as she reportedly wanted to sing something else – she did a good job of convincing us that she was having a good time on stage. You can’t be in a bad mood when listening to it.
The other bits: IMO it’s the weakest entry from the Big 5. And the performance featured the most awkward dance move I think I’ve ever seen at the contest…you know the one!
I give the song: 7
I give the vocals: 9
I give the performance: 9
Points for Spain: 8
Artist: Eric Saade
My favourite lyric: “Don’t say that it’s impossible, ‘cause I know it’s possible”
The best bits: I don’t give a pile of sequins how little sense the lyrics make, or how questionable Eric’s vocals are – I LOVE THIS SONG! Fredrik Kempe is the Einstein of Schlager, having written about a gajillion fabulous Melodifestivalen/ESC songs over the last decade or so, and he delivered another in 2011. I’m not quite sure how one is supposed to dance to Popular when one is not on stage and one is not famous and one has not been taught choreography, but I dance anyway whenever this comes on. I loved the stage show, the breaking (and sometimes, non-breaking) glass and Eric, of course.
The other bits: Yes, there is that ever-present issue of his vocals. But Dana International won Eurovision, and back in 1998 she had the voice of an angel…with strep throat.
I give the song: 10
I give the vocals: 7
I give the performance: 10
Points for Sweden: 10
Song: In Love For A While
Artist: Anna Rossinelli
Reminds me of: I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
The best bits: One of my favourite moments was when the Swiss made it to their first final since automatically qualifying in 2006. I don’t think they were expecting their country to be in a magic envelope. Come to think of it, neither was I! The song is sweet, but seemed too humble to make an impact, and in the end it got lost in the crowd. However Anna (a delightful vocalist) and her cohorts turned out a charming performance, with enough sun to rival the Spaniards.
The other bits: As I mentioned, the song is modest: not dull, but simple, and it doesn’t go far from start to finish. It reminds me of those dreams where you’re running as fast as you can but you aren’t moving. ILFAW is definitely less frustrating than that, but still…
I give the song: 8
I give the vocals: 10
I give the performance: 9
Points for Switzerland: 10
Song: Live It Up
Artist: Yuksek Sadakat
Result: 14th in semi final
Reminds me of: Genius by Jet
The best bits: Electro-rock strikes again! Only now with 99% more green pants and hamster balls. I don’t think Turkey is capable of sending a bad song to Eurovision, though we know now they are capable of not qualifying (shock horror!). I love a reliable band/artist: one you know you’ll get to watch and listen to without fear of cringing at a bum note. Yuksek fit that ball..er, I mean, bill.
The other bits: It seems to me that Turkey was trying to recreate the success they had in Oslo by sending a similar band with a similar song. But as a hardcore We Could Be The Same fan, I find this inferior. It just doesn’t capture my attention. Maybe go back to ethno-pop next year?
I give the song: 7
I give the vocals: 9
I give the performance: 9
Points for Turkey: 8
Artist: Mika Newton
Gimmick: Magic Sand at a whole new level
The best bits: Am I the only person who missed most of the sand because I was watching Mika? Yes, I was mainly thinking ‘I love those feathers’, ‘I wonder where her shoes are from?’ and ‘Wow, mullet dresses have really caught on this year!’, but it’s also due to my undying love for this song – I wanted to pay attention to her performance. Say the words un-clichéd, haunting and ballad in the same sentence and I’m so there. Follow them up with feathers, stiletto boots and a mullet dress (sigh, and sand art) and I’m a goner.
The other bits: I did confuse myself a bit by falling head-over-heels for the original version, then reaching the summit of Mt. Disappointment when it was rocked up, sped up and retitled in English, THEN saying how it didn’t work on stage, and now deciding that it really did and I adore it more than ever. I am also confused as to how this did so well when so many people seemed to dislike it.
I give the song: 10
I give the vocals: 9
I give the performance: 9
Points for Ukraine: 10
Song: I Can
My favourite lyric: “We’re not the first ones to be divided, won’t be the last to be reunited”
The best bits: I salute you, UK, for clawing yourselves out of the depths of last place and a shocking “tune” by recruiting one of the most cherished boy-bands of my girlhood to sing a modern, anthemic, self-composed song – aptly about getting back up again.
The other bits: I will stand by (to borrow a phrase from San Marino) my assertion that the UK had the best and most winner-like song of the 2011 contest. Unfortunately, the performance was bordering on shambolic. If the shiny suits had caught fire beforehand and had to be swapped for street clothes, Lee had drunk some honey tea, and someone had suggested that perhaps green lighting and giant LED head shots of Blue (apparently half-naked) were not the most suitable effect options, things would have been a whole lot better. The song deserved more than 100 points; the staging, considerably less.
I give the song: 10
I give the vocals: 6
I give the performance: 7
Points for the UK: 8
COMING UP: The first ever official Time Warp Tuesday…what Eurovision moment will I pick? Tune in Tues and see!
If the outcome of Eurovision was still decided by 100% televoting (as it was up until a few years ago), this year’s top 10 would have consisted of Azerbaijan, Sweden, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Russia, Germany, and Ireland. So not too different country-wise, but quite different position-wise!
And in a fantasy land (not mine) where Eurovision is decided by the pros alone, Italy would have won, followed by Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Austria, Ireland, Ukraine, Serbia, Sweden and Germany.
That means the J’s and TV’s have just 50% of their top 10’s in common.
- Azerbaijan and Sweden were very close with the fans, with just 2 point separating them.
The UK might take some comfort in the love they got from the televoters – all 166 points worth – despite the fact that the juries didn’t rate them.
Fan favourite Denmark shockingly owe the juries their 5th place – not the televoters, who pushed them down to 18th!
The countries on the most equal footing are Lithuania, Iceland, Romania, Germany and Azerbaijan, who attracted a similar amount of attention from both sides.
The juries got 80% of the qualifiers they wanted; the televoters got 70%.
You can see two very different winners from each group…both more than a bit stereotypical! The juries lavished the love on Lithuania, a grand, old-fashioned ballad belted out with gusto (and a bit of sign language, which was a nice touch, albeit stolen from Latvia’s 2005 performance) whereas the televoters couldn’t get enough of Greece’s ethnic-modern fusion (and perhaps their absurdly attractive singer).
Also expected is the popularity of Norway with the TV’s in comparision to its rear-end-of-the-scoreboard relegation with the J’s.
- Here, the juries, got 80% again, whereas the televoters got 90%. It seems the compromise is working out fair!
- Once again, we can see two very different, but not surprising semi winners. The powerhouse vocals of Maja from Slovenia won out with the pros, whilst the Popular powerhouse performance/party anthem of Sweden got the TV’s dialling.
- The viewers shared Anastasia Vinnikova’s love for Belarus, it seems.
I think the title pretty much says it all…except that ranking the entries after seeing them live can have a profound effect!
- United Kingdom (=)
- Bosnia & Herzegovina (+9)
- Sweden (=)
- Iceland (=)
- Cyprus (+3)
- Ukraine (+1)
- Latvia (-5)
- Italy (+10)
- Norway (=)
- Slovakia (-4)
- Denmark (-6)
- FYR Macedonia (=)
- Greece (+4)
- Ireland (-4)
- Israel (-2)
- Hungary (+3)
- Poland (+3)
- Belarus (-2)
- Croatia (+2)
- Switzerland (+19)
- Germany (+9)
- Finland (+16)
- Moldova (+8)
- Netherlands (-10)
- Russia (+1)
- Slovenia (+10)
- Romania (+1)
- Albania (+1)
- Bulgaria (-2)
- Turkey (-6)
- Serbia (-6)
- Spain (+8)
- Azerbaijan (-11)
- Austria (-1)
- Malta (+7)
- Portugal (-6)
- Armenia (-22)
- Georgia (-4)
- Estonia (-16)
- France (-8)
- San Marino (-4)
- Belgium (-1)
- Lithuania (=)
Coming up: I turn a statistical eye to this year’s top 10 to figure out what makes a song special enough to get there; and the winners of the annual EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are crowned!
It’s the morning after the morning after, and there’s still so much 2011 to talk about! I need a bit of time before I crown this year’s winners of the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence (your invitation should be in the mail), but in the meantime, let’s go through the Düsseldorf results once again – this time all the way from 1 to 43, with a little bit extra!
1. Azerbaijan (221) – Now that I’ve had a few hours to mull this victory over, I’m seeing it as a ‘Russia 08’ win – right country, right time…but not necessarily a memorable song and maybe not the one that’ll be seen as the right winner in the future. That is just my personal opinion, of course, and I’m still just as happy for Ell, Nikki and Azerbaijan as I was last night! Last year they threw everything at their entry with Safura (including Beyoncé’s choreographer, who’s still in traction), desperate to win, and now they’ve done it by trying a little less hard. Still, I think their triumph was a surprise to a lot of people.
2. Italy (189) – I get the feeling Raphael wasn’t overly excited by such a great result. That’s okay, because I’m excited enough for the both of us! To come back to the contest after more than a decade with a song few expected to make an impact, only to rake in the points and score one of the most coveted positions on the board is an über awesome achievement (sorry, I’m still feeling German). I think Mr. Gualazzi gave the best performance out of the Big 5, one that made me want to scat loudly in my living room even though I’m SO not a jazz fan – despite my name. Fingers crossed for Italy to grace Baku with their presence next year!
3. Sweden (185) – Sweden won the 2nd semi, and for a while during the voting, it looked like Eric Saade would be the most Popular act of the night, and though I’d previously thought to myself that if Sweden won, I’d just die, all of a sudden I was cheering them on. Alas, it was not to be. But I think this is a place well deserved. Eric may not have the best live vocal (although maybe if they let him stand still and sing rather than making him run up the walls/smash glass/run marathons and sing, he’d do better) but he had a cracking song and show that got the Düsseldorf Arena going, and he sold them both to the max.
4.Ukraine (159) – I love this song, but I can’t help thinking…how did this happen? I didn’t know Europe loved sand so much.
5. Denmark (134)
6. Bosnia & Herzegovina (125) – Way to show the Curse of No. 2 who’s boss, Dino Merlin! This fan couldn’t be happier for B & H. Their entries are usually hit-and-miss for me, but when they hit, they hit with something really unique that stands out – Putnici, Lejla, Bistra Voda…sigh. I’m adding Love In Rewind to that list of wonderful-ness for certain.
7. Greece (120)
8. Ireland (119)
9. Georgia (110)
10. Germany (107) – Lena put in one of the most polished performances of the night – very sultry, very mysterious, and just plain eye-catching! It’s clear she’s really grown as a performer since the Satellite days of yesteryear (or last-a-year, in this case). And yet, she was 19 then and is still 19 now. I’m actually hoping Germany makes her their permanent representative.
11. United Kingdom (100) – Blue didn’t quite live up to expectation, but with 100 points – 10 times their 2010 result – and 11th place, they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it. Though Lee Ryan could do with a minor beating for choosing the moment theUK sang for real in the final to have his voice break. And we could have done without 2D-Blue in the background. Ireland and Slovakia gave us enough doubles to last a lifetime. Still, it was a commendable performance, so close to the top 10.
12. Moldova (97)
13. Slovenia (96)
14. Serbia (85)
15. France (82) – Speaking of not living up to expectation! There were a lot of fans and journalists convinced that France would run away with the glass microphone in 2011, and as you probably know, the bookies had them instilled as the firm favourite most of the way. I hate to brag, but I never saw Amaury on top. And yet I didn’t think he could possibly leave Germany with anything less than a 10th place under his belt. I have to say, his vocals weren’t as breathtaking as they were on the French variety show where Sognu premiered, and so I spent the last half or so of the song wondering how many hours it had taken to maneuver his hair into that ‘I just rolled out of bed into a vat of styling gel (Schwarzkopf, naturally)’ arrangement. Better luck in Baku.
16. Russia (77)
17. Romania (77)
18. Austria (64)
19. Lithuania (63)
20. Iceland (61)
21. Finland (57)
22. Hungary (53)
23. Spain (50)
24. Estonia (44) – Speaking of not living up to expectation…again. Poor Getter failed to make the splash many thought she would, although she did bring the Peter Pan collar to the Eurovision stage. Her vocals weren’t the best, and I guess that coupled with being the filling of a dramatic Sweden/Greece sandwich led her to the second to last place.
25. Switzerland(19) – Would someone give the Swiss a break? I fell in love for a while with this sunny song after seeing it in the first semi, thinking if it qualified it could make the top 10. Amazingly, it did qualify – but fell flat in the final. As much as just reaching the final must be an achievement for the country, nobody wants to be last.
Then again, Anna Rossinelli didn’t technically come last. Here’s the rest of the scoreboard, with the semi 1 acts in blue and the semi 2 acts in red:
- Malta (54)
- Armenia (54)
- Belgium (53) – As talented as they are, I can’t believe Witloof Bay were so close.
- Bulgaria (48)
- Slovakia (48)
- Albania (47)
- Turkey (47) – Not only did the Turks not qualify, but they weren’t even on the border! Major shock.
- Belarus (45)
- Croatia (41)
- Israel (38)
- FYR Macedonia (36)
- San Marino (34) – 37th may not seem like an impressive result, Senit – but it makes you the singer of San Marino’s most successful entry ever!
- Norway (30)
- Latvia (25)
- Portugal (22)
- Poland (18)
- Cyprus (16) – IMO, this is one of the least deserved positions of 2011. The staging and choreography was up there with Germany’s in terms of professionalism, and the song just gets me. If the performance had mimicked Germany’s in choice of outfits, I wouldn’t be surprised with 16 points (Christos could not carry off that onesie) but as it stands, I don’t understand what went wrong.
- Netherlands (13) – Yes, it was 3JS from another unlucky ESC country who have the dubious honor of being 43rd out of 43. Was it deserved? I don’t think so. But it has to be someone. Or three someones, in this instance. A problem shared is a problem halved!
More this week, so stay tuned…just because Eurovision’s over doesn’t mean we have to stop discussing it!